So Much to Be Thankful For!

November 27, 2014

“If “thank you” is the only prayer you say, that will be enough.”

                                                                                  –Meister Eckhart

Happy Thanksgiving to all Bondings 2.0 readers!   We hope that you have much to be thankful for this year.

At New Ways Ministry, we are very thankful for many things this year.  We are particularly grateful for all our blog readers and commenters who make this site a great place for discussion!

New Ways Ministry’s staff members have each offered their top three gratitude items below. What are you thankful for this year, especially items that may pertain to Catholic LGBT issues?  We invite you to share your items in the “Comments” section of this post.

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director:

  1. The many people who support New Ways Ministry by donations, prayers, support, information, hospitality and encouragement.
  2. Catholic LGBT people and their families who continue to help to build a church of justice and equality, even when the odds seem impossible.
  3. The open discussion on LGBT issues that was started at the synod in October.  How wonderful to know that we have so many supportive Catholic leaders around the globe!

Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder:

  1. Three positive paragraphs about LGBT people were announced after the first week of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome, but they did not receive the necessary 2/3 majority vote. I am grateful that Pope Francis added the three paragraphs to the official version to be discussed before the Bishops take up the issue again in October 2015.
  2. Kathleen Purcell was let go from her teaching job in an Oakland, California, Catholic high school for crossing out sections of the new teachers’ contract, which demanded that employees’ personal and professional lives conform to Catholic teaching. I am thankful for the courage and witness of Kathleen Purcell and others like her who put their beliefs about justice into action.
  3. So many LGBT people, their families and friends, congregations of women religious, and other justice-seeking people have supported the work of New Ways Ministry during the past year with their prayers, their time, and their financial support. I am so very grateful for all of them.

Matt Myers, Associate Director:

  1. Pope Francis and his deep concern for the poor and marginalized.
  2. LGBT employees of Catholic institutions.
  3. The innumerable Catholics who are working, in big and small ways, to create a welcoming and inclusive Church for LGBT people.

Bob Shine,  Social Media Coordinator:

  1. For real conversations among Catholics and open disagreements between bishops during the global church’s ongoing discernment about marriage and family life, especially those courageous voices calling for change.
  2. For a growing awareness of and commitment to trans justice among Catholics, especially students who are reforming more of Catholic educational institutions and the Filipino church’s response to Jennifer Laude’s murder.
  3. For the emerging generation of ministers I’m blessed to study alongside for whom LGBT justice is a given pursuit and constitutive aspect of being a disciple of Jesus.

Detroit Archbishop Bans Parents’ Group Because of Speaker Choice

November 22, 2014

Francis DeBernardo, left, at World Pride 2012 in London. British Catholic gay advocate Martin Pendergast, right, helps him carry the New Ways Ministry banner.

Michigan LGBT advocates will proceed with a planned meeting for Catholic parents of LGBT children today after being barred from the Catholic parish that was set to host it.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron banned Christ the King parish in northwest Detroit from hosting the Fortunate Families support group because Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry is scheduled to speak. According to organizer Linda Karle-Nelson, the parish hosted a similar gathering last year and this change of venue greatly disrupts the event. She told The Detroit Free Press:

” ‘It’s really been a problem trying to get the information out to people who have registered and those who might want to walk in…The reason we invited Frank DeBernardo, is he just returned from Rome and the Synod on the family, and he was going to share his perspective and where do we go from here…The pope has asked for reactions and to weigh in.’ “

DeBernardo, who heads New Ways Ministry, noted how far Vigneron’s action is from Pope Francis’ welcoming style and added:

” ‘I feel bad for the message that it sends to Catholics that there can’t be discussion of an issue of great importance to them and their families — how to stay in better communication with their church and their gay and lesbian children.’ “

Linda Karle-Nelson and Thomas Nelson

Christ the King’s pastor, Fr. Victor Clore, is also baffled by the archbishop’s decision, telling the Free Press:

” ‘I’ll give you a quote from one of my parishioners, who said: “It amazes me how Pope Francis eagerly and happily engages those who openly deny the divinity of Christ, yet (New Ways) DeBernardo is deemed unworthy to enter our church’…

” ‘That’s pretty much my feeling, too…It’s treating people as if they were children.’ “

Archbishop Vigneron’s record on LGBT issues has not been positive. In the past, he has warned that pro-marriage equality Catholics should not receive Communion (though his auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton thought otherwise) and is on record saying Pope Francis “didn’t say anything different” on homosexuality.

In contrast, Karle-Nelson and her husband, Tom, were awarded by PFLAG for their pastoral efforts within the church through Fortunate Families. They have led protests at the Detroit chancery and stood by Dignity/Detroit when its 39th anniversary celebrations came under fire from the archdiocese.

Fox 2 News of Detroit quoted DeBernardo explaining a bit about the content of his talk:

“Pope Francis has demonstrated openness on these issues and he has called for greater discussion of them as we saw in the synod at the Vatican last month. I wish the Archdiocese of Detroit had inquired more deeply about the substance of my talk. They would have found that it is very Catholic on its content.”

His talk is about how the recent synod on marriage and the family discussed gay and lesbian people.  In the talk, he quotes almost entirely from bishops and cardinals, as well as the pope.

Please keep the Fortunate Families group in your prayers today as they meet at an alternate location. These dedicated parents and family members are answering Pope Francis’ call to create a church that is “home for all” through dialogue and welcome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Jesuit Students Honor UCA Martyrs with Transgender Education and Justice

November 20, 2014

Teach-In participants remember the martyrs in prayer

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, when people worldwide will remember those transgender people who died this past year as a result of anti-LGBT violence.

As vigils are held and prayers are offered, I want to highlight a moment of hope for trans justice that happened at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice last weekend.  The Teach-In is an annual event that brought together 1,600 students and staff from North American Jesuit high schools and colleges.  New Ways Ministry presented a workshop titled “Trans-forming Love” which looked at transgender issues through an affirming Catholic lens.

Over 40 participants explored not only justice for transgender people, but the gifts and qualities that gender diverse communities offer our church and our world. The conversation touched upon the Catholic Social Tradition, spirituality, and the ways in which students’ communities can become more inclusive.

Transgender justice fit in well with the Teach-In this year which was held on the 25th anniversary of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) martyrs, who were killed for aligning themselves with the poor and victimized of El Salvador. The UCA continues the prophetic witness of the Jesuit martyrs today, including support for LGBT people by hosting the first LGBT human rights conferences in El Salvador (which you can read about here and here) in 2013. At that conference, which New Ways Ministry participated in, it was obvious that trans advocates were leading the way for equality in that country.

A prayer card honoring the six Jesuit UCA martyrs and their two female colleagues

Fittingly, LGBT justice was included among the many social justice causes being discussed, prayed over, and advocated for during the Teach-In, including a workshop addressing homosexuality offered by Arthur Fitzmaurice of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.

Wider church reform conversations were on the conference’s agenda as well. Jesuit Fr. James Martin told young adults that you address systemic injustice in the church the same way you address it in the world — “You fight it.” Fr. Thomas Reese suggested that Pope Francis will leave it to local episcopal conferences to respond to same-sex relationships being legalized.

I am profoundly inspired by the students who attended the Teach-In, who I met at the workshop and also at New Ways Ministry’s exhibit table. During conversations with participants,  I found that students needed no convincing that LGBT rights were indeed human rights and questioned how anyone could oppose full equality and inclusion. They were, understandably, unhappy with the church and yet, for many, it was the church which deeply informed their passion for justice. I spoke with faculty courageously working to make their institutions safer and more welcoming, sometimes at great personal risk.

I was happily surprised at how affirming, and indeed informed, these teens and young adults were about issues of gender identity and diversity. Trans justice was as much a given as anything else.  Many students raised questions about how to be a better ally.

During this Transgender Day of Remembrance we mourn, for mourning is necessary and indeed an act of resistance. As Christians, it is important to remember that death is not the final word, even violent and gruesome death. The UCA murders prompted hundreds of thousands of people to seek justice in El Salvador and beyond. Today, the hate crimes against transgender people motivate thousands more to demand justice for this group of people in the very same way. At the intersection of these many tragedies, a group of students from Jesuit schools helped the light of LGBT justice burn a bit brighter last weekend — and that is Good News for us all.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Ten Years Later: Sister Jeannine and Her Documentary Keep Marching On

November 12, 2014

It’s hard to believe that it has been over ten years since In Good Conscience:  Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith, a documentary chronicling the life and ministry of New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, was released and met with applause, ovations, and awards at film festivals around the world.   And what a decade it has been!  Marriage equality is rapidly becoming the norm in the United States and in many parts of the globe, a new pope is in the Vatican, and Catholics in growing numbers are standing up for justice and equality for LGBT people.

TEN YEARS AGO: Sister Jeannine Gramick and Barbara Rick

To mark this anniversary, there will be a special screening of the inspiring film on Saturday, November 15th in New York City, as part of Believe Out Loud’s Level Ground film festival. (You can purchase tickets by clicking here.)  Both Sister Jeannine and Barbara Rick of Out of The Blue Films, who produced and directed the documentary, will be available for a Q and A session after the film.

Another way that the anniversary is being observed is that Out of The Blue Films is releasing a special tenth anniversary edition which brings viewers up to date with some of the remarkable things that have been happening in the church and the world.  And most importantly, the new version shows that Sister Jeannine is still actively ministering with LGBT people, continuing to resist the Vatican’s 15-year old order that she end such work.

The National Catholic Reporter’s  Jamie Manson interviewed Rick recently to discuss the impact of the film and a need for an update of it.  Rick explained what motivated her to undertake the project in the first place:

“I stumbled across something in The New York Times about an American nun who was refusing to be silent over her ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics. I remember just sitting up as straight as can be in my chair. I was like, ‘Oh my God, she is really doing something powerful.’

“This is a woman who is doing something revolutionary by refusing to be silenced by the patriarchal hierarchy of the Vatican. That just resonated very deeply with me: a woman standing up without fear (or in spite of fear) and saying, ‘I refuse to collaborate on my own oppression.’ That just hit such a deep chord in me.”

Rick reflects on what she learned about Sister Jeannine as she made the film:

“Her ability to speak truth to power and to deal with her enemies who outrank her really sets her apart. I’m so impressed by her persistence and her humor, her love for humanity, her dogged nature. She’s just determined. She just doesn’t give up. I really think she is a prophet. She has been fighting the way forward many decades. She was inspired by her friend Dominic, who asked, ‘Sister, what is the Catholic church doing for my gay brothers and sisters?’ That is the question that has hounded her for whole life.”

The filmmaker also commented on why she thinks Sister Jeannine’s story is so compelling:

“I think she was a part of this transformation that has happened in the treatment of gay and lesbian Catholics and gay and lesbian people throughout the world. She is part of the realization that all people are deserving of love, rights, respect and marriage. There was no talk of same-sex marriage 10 years ago. It’s very powerful to see how much the world has changed. I like to think that this film had a very tiny part to play in all that. The world was in the process in of changing, and we were documenting a little piece of that change. It’s one of the reasons that we wanted to revisit the film.”

Rick says the new film will be shorter and more effective, while also updating some of the content to reflect the changes that have occurred in the world and the church.  The producer is still trying to raise funds to finish the new edition.  To find out more about the new version and to make a donation to its production, visit the film’s website by clicking here.

If you would like to order a copy of the original film, you can do so by visiting New Ways Ministry’s online bookstore, and clicking on the button below the In Good Conscience icon.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Irish Priest Tony Flannery Begins 18-City US Tour on Conscience & Church Reform

October 19, 2014

Fr. Tony Flannery

Irish Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, who defied Vatican attempts to silence him, begins an 18-city speaking tour in the US this week that lasts through November 22nd.

Flannery, a Redemptorist who is a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests, refused to sign a Vatican document last year which demanded his adherence to the hierarchy’s teachings on homosexuality, contraception, and women’s ordination. His refusal led the Vatican to silence the priest and strip him of ministerial powers. Dennis Coday, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, noted:

“For most of 2012, Flannery was forbidden to minister as a priest as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviewed his writing. In January 2013, he said he was threatened with excommunication unless he made a clear and public statement — preapproved by the doctrinal congregation — fully supporting official church teaching.”

Rather than being “terrified into submission,” in his words, Flannery began speaking out. He published a book, A Question of Conscience, and spoke about the draconian process of his investigation and attempted silencing. His Redemptorist community, along with Irish and Austrian priests dedicated to church reform, have made their support known.

Now, Fr. Flannery will speak in 18 cities about his life, the importance of conscience, and topics of sexuality and church reform that led to his attempted silencing. The Catholic Tipping Point, which last year hosted Austrian reformer Fr. Helmut Schüller, is hosting Flannery. Both New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA are among the sponsors of Fr. Flannery’s visit. Other sponsors include American Catholic Council, Call to Action, Catholics in Alliance for the Common GoodCORPUSFutureChurch, the National Coalition of American Nuns,  the Quixote Center, and the Women’s Ordination Conference.

LGBT people, their loved ones, and their allies are among those harmed by exclusionary church policies, and these issues will be part of his speaking agenda on the U.S. tour. For a full schedule and more information, visit www.CatholicTippingPoint.org or see below:

  • Washington, DC – October 22
  • Baltimore, MD – October 23
  • Philadelphia, PA  – October 24
  • New York City – October 25
  • Warwick, RI – October 26
  • Boston, MA – October 28
  • Syracuse, NY – October 29
  • Cleveland, OH – November 1
  • Detroit, MI – November 3
  • Minneapolis, MN – November 5
  • Memphis, TN – November 8
  • Sarasota, FL – November 10
  • San Antonio, TX – November 12
  • St. Louis, MO – November 13
  • Phoenix, AZ – November 15
  • Sacramento, CA – November 16
  • Portland, OR – November 18
  • Seattle, WA – November 19
  • To read more about Fr. Flannery, see the ‘Related Articles’ below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

September 2013: Fr. Tony Flannery Further Refuses Vatican Silencing with New Book

January 2013: Irish Priest’s Refusal to Be Silenced is a Beacon of Hope for Church Renewal

January 2013: Irish Priest Receives Support from Near and Far in His Vatican Struggle


Synod Final Report Disappoints, But Significant Progress Is Made In the Process

October 18, 2014

The synod on marriage and family has released its final report.  You can read it by clicking here, though, so far, it has only been released in Italian. (Try Google Translate or another translation program.)  The passages on lesbian and gay issues are numbers 55 and 56.

The following is the statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, responding to the final report of the synod on marriage and the family:

The synod’s final report significantly backtracks on LGBT issues from the draft released earlier this week, but the synod’s process and openness to discussion provides hope for further development down the road, particularly at next year’s synod, where the make-up of the participants will be larger and more diverse, including many more pastorally-oriented bishops.

It’s very disappointing that the Synod’s final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included.  Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples. Additionally, their further comment about supposed “international pressure” to accept same-gender marriage selfishly views the hierarchy as the victims, not LGBT people who receive unjust and oppressive treatment by governments, church, families, and society.

Pastoral care should focus on for LGBT people as total human beings, many of whom have suffered significant alienation and personal harm, and not just as sexual beings.  Pastoral care should also focus on the gifts that LGBT people bring to the Church, something that the earlier draft highlighted.

One major error the bishops made in the final report was to quote the Vatican’s 2003 document condemning same-gender marriage, which referred to adoption by gay and lesbian couples as a form of “violence” toward the children.  Such language is pastorally harmful and destructive to any welcome to lesbian and gay people.

It’s important, however, to keep two things in mind.  First, the paragraphs on homosexuality which did not receive the required 2/3rds vote, and which were more welcoming of LGBT people, failed by only a handful of votes, indicating significant support from a majority of bishops. Second, this report is not the final word, but as a Vatican spokesperson explained, it is still a working document which will be discussed in the coming year.

What was good about this two-week long meeting?  The real value of this synod is that it has started the discussion among the hierarchy on LGBT issues which has been going on for decades among the lay people and theologians in the Church.  The bishops began to catch up, and I don’t think that the discussion will stop here, but will only continue, with more promising outcomes for LGBT people and their families in the future.

It is not surprising that the paragraphs on lesbian and gay people proved to be among the most controversial of the synod’s proceedings.  The paragraphs on homosexuality were among those that received the lowest affirmative votes.  This result shows that there is still much to be examined and explored on LGBT issues in the Church.  Let’s hope and pray that at next year’s synod, the bishops will invite lesbian and gay people and couples to give their personal testimonies, so that the bishops can learn first-hand about their experiences of faith and love.

More importantly, though this synod revealed that there are some strong voices for LGBT equality and for change in church teaching, something which was not known clearly before the meeting.  Now that these voices have been bold enough to speak, more bishops who think like them will surely follow their example.  The biggest problem in the Church up to this point has not been lack of support among the hierarchy on LGBT issues, but lack of courage for those bishops to speak out what they truly think.  The silence has ended.  Nothing will be the same.

Between now and next year’s synod, the discussion in the Catholic Church–at all levels–on LGBT issues, as well as other issues of family and sexuality, will be more open and robust than it has ever been.  That is a very good thing!

New Ways Ministry is a 37-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the wider Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


SYNOD: New Ways Ministry Welcomes Church’s New Approach to Gay and Lesbian People

October 13, 2014

The Synod

The Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family has released a relatio, its mid-term report, and it has encouraging statements. You can read the entire text of the relatio by clicking here.  Below is the response of New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, Francis DeBernardo, to this news:

“The relatio offers some very hopeful directions in the way that Church leaders should address lesbian and gay people and their families.  I hope that local bishops and pastors will respond to the relatio’s challenges with new ways of welcome and acceptance.

“The most significant aspects are that Catholic communities are offered the challenge of ‘accepting and valuing’ lesbian and gay people’s sexual orientation, and the recognition that lesbian and gay people ‘have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.’    These recognitions are total reversals of earlier church statements which labelled such an orientation as “objectively disordered” and which viewed gay and lesbian people in faith communities as problems and suspect persons.  Though the relatio also speaks about the importance of not ‘compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony,’  the move toward accepting and valuing the gifts of gay and lesbian people is a major step forward.
“Although same-gender marriages are not recognized–which is not a surprise–it is very significant that the relatio recognizes that gay and lesbian couples offer one another ‘mutual aid to the point of sacrifice [which] constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.’  This recognition of the holiness of gay and lesbian couples is an important development, and I think it can lead to further developments of full recognition in years to come.
“What is also significant and hopeful is what is not said.  In stating that same-gender marriages are not accepted by the hierarchy, there is no vicious condemnation of them, as previous hierarchical statements have.  We don’t see the gloom and doom and apocalyptic horror that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and their followers have foretold because of the advent of same-gender marriages.
“Most worrisome, however, is the suggestion that international bodies should not ‘pressure’ pastors to accept ‘gender ideology.’   Gender ideology is an empty, catch-all phrase to mean anything that church leaders don’t want to accept about gender.   Yet, the influence that many international bodies are trying to exert is that of protecting the civil and human rights of LGBT people, so that their identities are not criminalized, and so that they don’t suffer penalties and violence.   It’s very disappointing that the relatio doesn’t make this distinction and that the human rights of LGBT are not explicitly mentioned as worthy of defending.  Defending LGBT human rights is a pro-life and pro-family measure.
“I hope that the statement of accepting the children of lesbian and gay couples will trickle down to parishes where such children have been excluded from sacramental life and educational opportunities.
“Perhaps the most welcome statement, in terms of general approaches to marriage, family, and sexuality, is the admonition: The indispensable biblical-theological study is to be accompanied by dialog, at all levels.’
“This call to dialogue has been absent in church discussions of sexuality for way too long.  It presents the hope that future changes that are even more welcoming and accepting of lesbian and gay people and their families can develop down the road.  Once church leaders engage in dialogue with lesbian and gay Catholics, I am confident that these leaders will see the deep faith, love, and witness to the Gospel that is active in their lives and loves.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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